I had a great privilege a few weekends ago to speak at special meetings about an hour and a half north east of Halifax, at Fellowship Baptist in Great Village. This annual event for the church has been a consistent encouragement for the saints who worship here but also as a way to reach into the lives of those who they have been praying for and burdened for spiritually.
Sunday morning we sensed that God had been working in the life of this Church, the place was full, the kids were chaotic, the worship was genuine- a good place to live out Christ- The Theme was 'GET REAL'; and we focused on some passages from Ephesians. Sunday night the crowd was cut to about half; I'd like to think it was the gritty preaching but most likely it was that the church doesn't usually hold a Sunday night service. I thought typically for the next few nights we would have a drop in attendance as it can be hard to make time in the evenings of a week.
The crowd did thin but not in numbers more in 'texture'. People were bringing out family, friends, neighbours who were struggling with loneliness, addiction or past hurts and failures. I am not sure that the messages got 'grittier' but the congregation seemed to. During these three days I received a lot of encouragement from some great and sincere people. God's hand was truly moving on the heart of both religious and irreligious sinners. But no encouragement would match the words of the most unlikely person on the last night of our meetings.
The last night there was a coffee time following the service (did I mention it's a Baptist church); a lady came to me at the front of the church and asked if I would speak to a lady in a wheelchair at the back. I made my way back to the last pew, sat down and introduced myself; There was an evident spirit of love and joy from this lady. She began to encourage me. She was so thrilled that we had moved our family into the north end of Halifax; She told me that she had lived for more then 16 years in the housing project down the road from my house. She spent most of her life as a prostitute in various cities across Canada. She said she had been held in apartments, hotels, moved around by pimps, and she had marks of torture on her body from the treatment she had received. She told me that it was in the midst of this darkness that Jesus found her, the she began to bless me; she said, 'you have the message and words that my friends there need to hear, and on and on she flowed out encouragement.' After a half hour or so of listening and being filled up by her words of encouragement and the reality of the Gospel of redemption; I asked if I could pray for her. I prayed that God would strengthen and encourage her, be close and alive in her life and protect her in the dark moments of physical struggle. After I was done praying she looked at me and said, I want you to know that I no longer have those darkest of days, Jesus is with me now, everyday. By this time I was crying with joy as to her honest love relationship with Jesus, and His care for her. She put her hand on me and prayed a prayer of blessing and protection on me and our family.
I am honestly still stuck for words as to how deeply it has blessed my soul to have come into direct contact with the grace of God at work in Cathy! Pray for her as she lives in a place she can receive care and strength in living with HIV; The heart of Jesus is so surprising to me as He seeks to shape the heart of a self moralist preacher with the words of some one who knows the depth of the love of God. May God help me, the vilest of sinners, to know how deep, long, wide and high His love is!